Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Simple, Healthy, and Affordable Breakfast Solutions

The Crew is always looking for ways to simplify.  Meals tend to be one of the biggest areas of need in that regard.  Not only do we want everyone fed as easily as possible, but we want meals that are healthy and affordable.

If you've read our post about grocery budgets, you know that I'm looking for ways to continue cutting costs on our food bill.  Until recently, cold cereal was our staple breakfast.  This was something the kids could serve themselves, it was reasonably healthy because we chose cereals without sugar and with as many whole grains as we could, and it was not incredibly expensive.

However, after reviewing our spending some more, I thought we could save just a bit more on breakfast foods.  Here was my criteria:
Simple - This means that the kids can serve themselves with minimal mess and little error.  I also wanted something that we could throw together each day or once a week without a lot of time or effort involved.
Healthy - Not only did I want something healthy, but also something that would be filling and help everyone make it (without incident) to snack time.
Affordable - My affordability measure was simply for the breakfast solution to cost less than the cold cereal we were already buying.
I came up with three different solutions:
Homemade Granola - This was simple for morning preparation and healthy (provided I used very little or no oil and only a bit of sugar).  It was also affordable because oats are, well...affordable.  The only downside is that to make enough granola to last even a week in our house takes an hour or more.  But it went into the mix anyway.
Frozen Waffles and Muffins - These also makes morning preparation simple.  They are cheaper than cold cereal and having found some good recipes, they are healthy.  But like the granola, the advanced preparation time was at least an our (and for waffles more like 2 hours).  It also went into the mix, though.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal "Packets" - This has become the breakfast staple.  It is simple the day of and very quick to mix up a huge batch in advance.  It is definitely healthy even with some sugar to sweeten it up.  We are certainly spending less than we did on cold cereal.  And I've taught the kids how to prepare their own, which gives them a sense accomplishment and enables Claude and I get ready in the mornings.
Armed with these solutions, we set to work to stock the freezer and get out the giant bags of oats.  The girls have helped considerably with preparations and at this point we have about 5 dozen muffins, 1 dozen waffles (we've eaten a few already), and 20 cups worth of dry instant oatmeal "packet" mix to get us through the breakfast rush.  The granola is still awaiting preparation, but with everything else that we have on hand it's not all that necessary.

You can check out the recipes that we used here:
Simple Stovetop Granola - We have used this recipe for about 4 years now.  I cut back the butter/oil and sugar quite a bit from this recipe.
Whole Wheat Apple Waffles - We like ours with peanut butter.
Hearty Spiced Carrot Muffins - I also made a batch with zucchini in place of the carrot.  And I reduced the sugar.  These are awesome so make extra that you can eat and still have something left for the freezer!
Healthy Toddler Oatmeal Banana Muffins - Don't let the name fool you.  These are for "kids" of ALL ages.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets - We add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to our mix.

 So, what are you favorite breakfast solutions?

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